$25 million redesign project to bring big changes to DC public high schools

A new partnership between D.C. and the XQ Institute — a nonprofit co-founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs — aims to reimagine what high school in the District looks like.

The Francis L. Cardozo Education Campus and Paul Laurence Dunbar High School were both selected for the first cohort of DC+XQ after a monthslong community-driven design process.

Cardozo Principal Arthur Mola told WTOP that their redesign will build on the school’s historical roots as an all-Black business school, focusing on turning students into CEOs and entrepreneurs.

“The big bold idea, the concept that our school community rallied around, was the ultimate goal that every student at Cardozo would graduate as a business owner,” Mola said. “The idea of creating a pipeline for young people from marginalized communities, to become the authors of their futures — their financial futures, specifically.”

In practical terms, that means students will be in the classroom two or three days a week, studying required core concepts, and will spend several days a week outside of school, interning and working with industry professionals to shape and refine their business ideas.

Dunbar High School’s design concept centers on Afrofuturism, a sociopolitical and artistic movement that studies the past through a Black and brown cultural lens to shape the future.

Mola said that the school would begin implementing some of its new economic and entrepreneurial programming this year, with the goal of unveiling a specific program in the 2023 school year.

Jeanie Lee, the head of partnership expansion at XQ Institute, told WTOP that the organization chose to partner with D.C. because the District shows signs of “readiness and willingness.”

“You can’t force a redesign on anybody, and this is a community-driven process that really requires a lot of buy-in,” she said. “We saw that, and we felt that both from community and school leaders, but also the leadership.”

XQ Institute is granting $25 million to seed and start up the school model for public high schools within the District, with the goal of reaching and supporting the redesign of all DCPS high schools over a five-year partnership.

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Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin is an anchor/reporter for WTOP. She started her career in New York City as a local TV reporter and has since covered foreign affairs and national politics as a Washington correspondent. She also anchored a nightly news show for an international network.

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